Vertical transmission of chemoautotrophic symbionts in the bivalve Solemya velum (Bivalvia: Protobranchia). Academic Article uri icon


  • Adults of the bivalve species Solemya velum live in symbiosis with chemoautotrophic bacteria in specialized gill bacteriocytes. The bacteria play an essential nutritional role in the mature association, fixing CO2 via the Calvin cycle with energy obtained through the oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds. To understand how the continuity of this partnership is maintained between host generations, we investigated the mode of symbiont transfer in S. velum. A diagnostic assay using the polymerase chain reaction and primers specific for the S. velum symbiont ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (RubisCO) gene consistently detected bacterial sequence in female gonad tissue, suggesting the presence of symbiont cells in host ovaries and a vertical mode of symbiont transmission from mother to offspring. Furthermore, intracellular bacteria were present in the developing gills of juveniles that had not yet hatched from the gelatinous capsule in which larval development occurs (11 days after fertilization). By 64 days postfertilization, the typical adult gill ultrastructure of alternating bacteriocytes and symbiont-free-intercalary cells was apparent. Knowledge about the mode of symbiont transfer in S. velum allows further study into the dynamics of host-symbiont interactions in chemoautotrophic associations.

publication date

  • April 1996